The Teabaggers have made a lot of noise over the past year. But it might signify nothing, after all.
The trouble with populist movements that are anti-government is they are also suspicious of anyone who wants to organize the movement for effective change. Now, I'm not suggesting that the Teabaggers have an actual agenda that would create effective change, at least as the normal people in this nation would define it. Indeed, most studies of the movement indicate that there's a lot of rage out there, but apart from Obama and Congress in concept, there's no focus to this rage.
What does this mean?
It means a couple of things we should keep in mind going into the fall:
1) Fundraising for the Teabagger candidates is going to be extra hard. If you aren't focused, you don't have your heart into a movement. Compare, for example, the Teabaggers to the Obama insurgent candidacy in 2007 and 2008. Hillary Clinton all but had the nomination locked up, and all the big money donors were quite happy piling her plate high to fund her general election campaign. Barack Obama made appeals to small donors, liberal donors, and to people who worried that the smear campaign launched against Hillary by the Republicans was true, that she was a corrupt politico who would do little to change DC.
Obama's supporters, in other words, had a focus for their anger, so contribute they did. In massive numbers. I suspect that campaign has already generated a large number of masters theses in political science. It was remarkable.
The Teabaggers lack that kind of focal point, a body of candidates who can generate the kind of enthusiasm that anger has to be channeled into. People don't like to be angry. They like to have faith that things will get better if they can just get something done. Obama presented that. The folks on the right wing who are exploiting the Teabagger anger have presented no such solution.
2) Which brings me to the next point: if you don't have a focal point for your anger, and you don't have an agenda to create effective change, you really have nothing. The Perotistas of the 90s at least had the rallying cry of lower deficits. You don't hear that much from Teabaggers. Lower taxes, yes. Less government, yes. But you don't have the hammering point that the deficit is out of control. That's a change that would get people to join up. What you have instead is a bunch of greedy cheapskates who have zero clue about what it means to be a citizen of a society. They want society out of their lives, not government. They would prefer a nation of loners, not a nation of doers. Life left them behind, and this is their way of getting revenge on the world.
3) If a candidate in Alabama, a Teabagger favorite, leading the polls heading into a runoff election loses a runoff to an establishment candidate...IN ALABAMA, the very heart of white anger...your movement has lost its direction already. Indeed, one of the few victories Teabaggers generally point to, Senator Scott Brown of Massachussetts, has already jumped Teabagger ship twice and sided with Democrats on two major issues.
I think 2010 will see the end of the Teabagger movement, as well as the collapse of Glenn Beck into Ann Coulter obscurity.